THE IMPORTANCE OF NATIVE POLLINATORS
Who are our native pollinators? A majority are insects, including ants, bees, beetles, butterflies, flies, moths and wasps. Other pollinators can include bats, birds and small vertebrates like field mice. The presence of native pollinators is critical for promoting a healthy ecosystem. Native pollinators support local plant species’ survival. Other animals depend on native pollinators as food resources. Additionally, a healthy pollinator population can benefit local producers by supporting increased fruit and vegetable yields.
Whether you are a farmer or a homeowner, there are many ways that we can support native pollinator habitats in our farms and gardens. Pollinators require diverse food sources and a place to build their nests to be successful. Here are a few tips to promote native pollinators:
- Use pesticides judiciously: Insecticides are pesticide products that are often utilized to control harmful insect pests. These products, when used in accordance with the labeled instructions, can help us mitigate insect damage. In general, insecticides that are used in excess or used improperly may pose a risk to native pollinator health. In an effort to reduce insecticide impacts on pollinators, we should begin by considering whether or not an insecticide use is warranted. First, carefully identify insect species. For help with pest identification and management, contact your local Extension Office for recommendations. Impending crop loss and structural damage may justify the use of chemical control. If that is the case, be sure to carefully read the labeled instructions as required by federal law. Applying insecticides in accordance with the label reduces environmental risk and unintentional impacts on native pollinators. Pollinators are often exposed to products when vegetation is in bloom. Your insecticide label will likely recommend not using the product during blooming or to apply the product at night, when fewer pollinators are actively foraging. Additionally, we may have the ability to choose between several types of insecticide products. If possible, we can choose products that are less toxic to pollinators. In many cases, insecticides may not be needed in a home garden landscape. Minor insect damage and feeding on ornamentals and vegetable crops can often be tolerated. The reduced use of pesticides can promote beneficial predators and parasitoids that can manage these insect populations. Using native and well-adapted plants in the landscape can help promote healthy plants that can tolerate minor pest damage.
Native pollinators are an important component of a healthy ecosystem and necessary for a bountiful supply of fruits and vegetables. We can each do our part to promote native pollinators on our own landscape by following the advice outlined above.
Forage and Field Crops Educator